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Chapel Street Studio: A creative co‑op pooling skills – it’s a win‑win for everyone

Case study

1st September 2022
What is a co-op?
A Chapel Street Studio meeting

Find out what happens when a group of talented professionals in West Yorkshire join forces to put their expertise to good use…  

One of a series of case studies produced by Co-operatives UK as part of The Ownership Hub programme, in partnership with the Employee Ownership Association. The Ownership Hub is working with the South Yorkshire Mayoral Combined Authority to highlight the benefits of employee and worker owned businesses.

When a number of creatives in the city of Bradford were looking for business opportunities, coming together to set up a co‑op was the natural choice. And that’s how Chapel Street Studio was formed.

With a core membership team of seven people and 18 freelance associates, the co‑operative agency provides a range of creative services including web development, branding, publishing, social media strategy and full project management.

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We adhere to worker co‑op values. All the team has the same pay and the same say. It’s always very open, we share responsibilities amongst us and decisions are well‑informed because people get to have a clear voice.
– Aysha Haq, Agency Lead, Chapel Street Studio

Aysha Haq is Chapel Street’s Agency Lead. She’s also a digital marketing consultant who joined the co‑op to expand her network and land contracts from larger organisations – something that can be harder to achieve as a solopreneur.

“For me, one of the greatest things that has come from being part of this co‑op is sharing skills and sharing different opportunities. The agency works with big clients such as the NHS, local councils and different government bodies,” she says.

“I’ve found these opportunities through Chapel Street. If I were to approach any of those organisations on an individual basis, I’d have to go through a long process to be able to work with them.

“So it makes it easier for all our creatives – and the beauty is your work is attributed to you, which is fantastic. We are unique in that way – everyone keeps their identity but everyone works together to further the business.”

A Chapel Street Studios meeting

Pooling their skills, the team at Chapel Street Studio offer complete, end‑to‑end creative services and they work together to fulfil every aspect of their clients’ needs, each contributing their specific area of expertise.

“The beauty of bringing all our different skills together is that we can work on projects we may never have had the chance to work on individually. And our clients can trust us, as they are not relying on just one person. We have many people within the organisation we can draw upon – and that’s all‑important.” 

Having previously worked for corporations, Aysha finds the co-operative structure much more creatively freeing and satisfying. “You get to work with people in different way. You don’t ‘seek permission’ to do something, you ‘have a discussion’ about it. 

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Before, I was instructed by a superior. Here, I talk with the team. I thoroughly enjoy that. It’s always interesting to come up with creative solutions where everybody feels good and everyone has been listened to – and we’ve come up with the best idea.
– Aysha Haq

For Aysha, one of her favourite Chapel Street Studio ‘gigs’ has been providing social media training to the Unicorn Grocery co-operative in Manchester. “It was great to see how their worker co‑op model is working – and how everyone is mucking in.

“They do a phenomenal job, so it was good to meet the team and see the great work they’ve already done on social media, while wanting to do better and thinking about the latest features they can use moving forward.”

A consortia co‑operative of freelance individuals and businesses, the day-to-day running of Chapel Street Studios is based on a worker co-op model, with the core members enjoying a flat structure and an equal stake in the running of the agency. 

“We adhere to worker co‑op values. All the team has the same pay and the same say. It’s always very open, we share responsibilities amongst us and decisions are well‑informed because people get to have a clear voice.

“You can also action decisions a lot faster because there isn’t the chain of command that exists in traditional corporate hierarchy. I would recommend it anyone who’s a solopreneur. It works phenomenally well.”

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